By MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
Lack of an official interpreter stalled the taking of plea at a Lagos State High Court, Igbosere on Monday.
The incident happened when the accused persons, namely, Habib Isiaka and Toib Azeez were arraigned before Justice M.A. Okikiolu Ikhile on charges of conspiracy to commit robbery at Amukoko area of Lagos State.
When the court registrar read the first count of the charges to the accused persons, and it became obvious that they do not understand English the judge assigned the court registrar to do the interpretation in Yoruba to the accused persons.
She told the people in the courtroom that she has to use the court registrar as an interpreter because there was no official interpreter in her court.
The court registrar’s interpretation of the charges was not satisfactory to her even as she corrected him. Having regard to this development, the trial judge said: “I am not to interject when you are taking a plea. You have to get it right from the beginning. In taking plea you have to understand the plea itself.”
When the defence counsel, Jamiu Kolapo (Esq) urged the judge to allow the interpretation by the registrar to proceed, stating that the court would manage to take the plea, that he as counsel for the defendants would give his consent that the plea had been taken, the judge overruled his opinion.
“You don’t manage plea taking as well as you don’t manage oath taking,” the judge said, and therefore decided that the court should rise for twenty minutes to enable her chamber to put the registrar through on how to interpret charges in Yoruba.
When the court resumed in about an hour later, and the same proceeding continued, the judge expressed disappointment that the registrar did not catch up with the guide given to him as he could not still interpret the charges well in Yoruba, and was not stating the particulars of the offence before asking for plea of guilty or not guilty.
The prosecution counsel, Mrs. T.A. Aderiyo, Chief State Counsel, also corroborating the statement of the judge said, “The registrar has not stated the particulars of the offence before asking for plea.”
The judge therefore said that the matter has to be adjourned in order to enable the arrangement for a competent interpreter at the next sitting.
Defence counsel commended the trial judge for the efforts she made to ensure the progress of the proceeding, and therefore, sought an adjournment and also requested that an interpreter in Pigeon English should also be provided.
The judge adjourned the matter to 12th March 2018, and ruled that the accused persons should be remanded in prison.
The offence allegedly committed by the accused persons on 12th June 2015 is contrary to Section 297 of Criminal Laws of Lagos State.